FLYING Magazine

The U.S. Army is conducting market research to identify potential candidates capable of developing a full-scale aerial target prototype for fifth-generation aircraft testing, it announced.

“The anticipated contract is for development and integration testing of an affordable, unmanned, low observable, model-based, full-scale aerial target prototype aircraft/s and support of the government-led ground and flight testing,” Army Contracting Command-Orlando said in a Sources Sought Notice (SSN) issued this week.

The prototype should be affordable, with development of two aircraft costing less than $50 million, and an average unit flyaway cost of less than $10 million, ACC-O said. The aircraft should also be capable of flying for up to 120 minutes, have passive radio frequency and infrared signatures that mimic fifth-generation fighters, and be big enough to transport up to eight chaff/flare dispenser modules.

The SSN marks a circling back to a previous program that resulted in the 2020 delivery of the first fifth-generation aircraft (5GAT) at the Army’s Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah, where it successfully completed low- and high-speed taxi testing.

That 5GAT aircraft, a twin-engine aerial target the size of a Northrop T-38, was developed by Sierra Technical Systems. The aircraft was tested in Utah for four months, but the program was later canceled following an accident during its first flight, Aviation Week reported.

The technical design package from that earlier 5GAT aircraft “will be made available to potential bidders if/when a request for proposal (RFP) is released by the government,” the notice said.

The anticipated award for the 5GAT will be made in Fiscal 2023.

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